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California Car Insurance

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Understand California Auto Insurance

Car insurance is mandatory in California. It protects you against financial loss in the event of an accident or theft. In exchange for your premium payment, the insurance company agrees to pay any losses incurred covered under your policy.

Minimum Required California Auto Insurance Coverage

Bodily Injury Liability

Pays to repair the other driver’s car if you cause an accident. It also pays medical bills and expenses for the other driver and their passengers.

Property Damage Liability

Pays to repair damaged property, such as another driver’s car, or a fence or a house, in an accident you’ve caused.

Medical Payments Optional Coverage

Pays, up to your policy limit, regardless who’s at fault for injuries and related costs to you, a resident relative and your vehicle’s passengers, such as medical bills, hospitalization bills, and funeral expenses. It also applies if you or a resident relative are passengers in other vehicles or hit by a car while a pedestrian.

Comprehensive Optional Coverage

Pays, up to your policy limit minus your deductible, to repair or replace your car if you damaged something other than a collision. This includes theft, fire, vandalism, storm, contact with animals, and more.

Collision Optional Coverage

Pays, up to your policy limit minus your deductible, to repair or replace your car if overturned or damaged in a collision with another vehicle or object.

Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Protection Optional Coverage

Helps pay your, your resident relatives’, and your passengers’ injuries if the other driver is at fault and does not have any, or enough, insurance.

Uninsured Motorist—Property Damage Optional Coverage

Coverage is available on all vehicles not insured for Collision, it provides up to $3,500 towards the lesser of either repair to or the actual value of your vehicle for damages caused by an uninsured vehicle where the driver or vehicle is identified and legally liable.

Uninsured Motorist—Collision Waiver Optional Coverage

Pays your collision deductible for damages to your vehicle caused by direct physical contact with an uninsured vehicle where the driver or vehicle is identified and legally liable.

Roadside Assistance Optional Coverage

Pays, up to your policy limit, for common roadside services if your car is disabled.

Rental Expense Optional Coverage

Helps pay for your rental car fees, up to your policy limits, while your car is being repaired or is unavailable as a result of a covered accident.

Vehicle Manufacturer Replacement Parts Optional Coverage

Pays, up to your policy limit, to repair or replace property or parts with those made for or by the original equipment manufacturer, less your deductible.

Special Vehicle Equipment Coverage Optional Coverage

Pays additional costs above your comprehensive or collision coverage to repair or replace your custom equipment if stolen or damaged.

California Proof of Financial Responsibility and Penalties

Having proof of Financial Responsibility (often called “insurance”) is a necessity when driving or parked on California roadways. It’s required when registering your vehicle with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), at the request of a law enforcement officer, and when the vehicle is involved in a traffic collision.

As your insurance company, we’re required to notify the DMV when your car insurance policy is issued and when it terminates. The Department of Motor Vehicles may also request verification of coverage from you. If you’re unable to provide proof of liability insurance, the penalties can be harsh including suspension of your driver license, suspension of your vehicle’s registration, and fines starting at $100 plus any applicable penalty assessment fees.

Additionally, if you can’t show sufficient proof, need to reinstate your license after it’s suspension or revocation in association with certain convictions, or fail to pay legal damages after an accident, you’ll likely be required to get a Certificate of Financial Responsibility (also known as an SR-22).

Auto Insurance Frequently Asked Questions

Do you need car insurance in California?

Yes. California requires that drivers have a liability insurance policy which provides the following coverage limits (at a minimum):

  • $15,000 for injury/death per person
  • $30,000 for injury/death to more than one person per accident
  • $5,000 for damage to property

Liability insurance compensates a person other than the policyholder for any personal injury and/or property damage during an accident.

Please note comprehensive or collision insurance does not meet vehicle financial responsibility requirements.

Is California a no-fault state?
No. If you are found to have caused an accident, then you would be financially responsible for the damages that result. That includes damages to property (e.g. other vehicles, structures, etc.) and injuries which others have sustained.
When did auto insurance become mandatory in California?
In 1984, it became mandatory in the state of California for all motorists stopped for traffic validations to prove they have liability coverage.
Is financial responsibility a new thing?
No. For many years, the California Vehicle Code has required every driver and every owner of a motor vehicle to maintain financial responsibility. The new law now requires a driver to produce proof of financial responsibility when asked by a peace officer during an enforcement stop.
What is permissive driver limitation?

Permissive driver limitation is liability coverage that is provided for an insured, other than you or a resident relative, up to, but not exceeding the limits of the Financial Responsibility Law of the State where you reside and garage an insured auto.

In California, the state requires minimum liability coverage limits of:

  • $15,000 per person for bodily injury or death as a result of any one accident, and subject to the limit as to each person
  • $30,000 for bodily injury or death of all persons as a result of any one accident
  • $5,000 for damage to property of others as a result of any one accident.
Is it illegal to drive without insurance in California?
Yes. If you’re convicted of driving without insurance, you could have your license suspended, your vehicles’ registration suspended, your car impounded, pay hefty fines, or any combination of the four.
How do I find the right insurance near me?

Getting a car insurance quote with Wawanesa is easy when you live in California. Wawanesa has been trusted by drivers for over 120 years. You can count on us to provide you with the right car insurance coverage to help protect you in an event of an accident or when you need to file a claim.

Wawanesa offers:

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Have more questions on auto insurance? Visit our FAQs page to find answers on common questions relating to coverage, making a claim, and more.

Auto Insurance FAQs


  1. Wawanesa Insurance received the highest score in California in the J.D. Power 2023, 2022, 2021, and 2020 U.S. Auto Insurance study of customers’ satisfaction with their auto insurance provider. Visit

Please note that this website provides only a summary of auto insurance to generally illustrate how auto insurance works. Your insurance policy is the legal contract containing the terms and limitations of your coverage. Any coverage provided by a Wawanesa General Insurance Company policy is subject to the terms, conditions, exclusions and endorsements of your insurance policy.